Baggage. It can ruin a spirit just as easily as it can ruin a back. We carry so much of it throughout our lives, but never more so than when we chart a different course, at the intersection where middle age meets true love.
To get remarried at life’s midpoint is to start life as a grown-up all over again. What takes some of the fear and sting out of starting over from scratch is, paradoxically, some of the baggage that we carry. That which has influenced us, marked us, and wounded us has also taught us. We have a glowing map this time around, whereas the first time some of us might have been driving in the dark, without any headlights on.
We have, in short, been forewarned.
The baggage metaphor springs today from that most pedestrian of pursuits: travel. I am writing this from the middle seat of the mid-section of a United Airlines flight to Orange County, California. I am multitasking, engaging my transversus abdominus the way that Dr. Amanda Miller taught me, so that all the bags I’ve just schlepped while walking down the endless airport corridors won’t wreak havoc on my lower back, and ruin my six sunny days in Southern California.
I’m thinking of baggage because, while I’m in California, I’m going to revisit a book that I read during my engagement to John. If you’ve been following this blog from the beginning, you’ll remember an article I wrote for the Richmond Times-Dispatch about online dating, and how I met John. In the article, I referenced a wonderful memoir of remarriage called The Triumph of Love Over Experience. The woman who wrote the book, Wendy Swallow, shared this stunning insight:
The single most important thing to making a marriage work is the ability of each party to tolerate the neuroses of the other. If you’re going to make it for the long haul, you’re going to have to learn to live with those neuroses. In fact, you’re going to have to learn to embrace them.
John and I like to think that we hug one another’s neuroses at least as often as we hug one another. We each possess a fairly sophisticated baggage-ometer, and can ferret out subtext pretty well, knowing when it’s time to give the other an extra mite of space. Or a strategically-timed hug.
Wendy Swallow will be my guest for an upcoming “Monday Morning Q & A,” so while I’m in California I’ll be doing my homework—re-reading her book with the vantage point of a full year of (re)marriage under my belt, and thinking about what I want to ask her.
One of my readers wrote me the following:
I’m not in midlife (not admittingly) and not a second wife, but I’m having thoughts and fears of a second marriage. I’m 43 (admitting it) and said that I would never remarry, but I have recently found someone who I would consider marrying and I’m scared as hell!
For this reader, I’ll formulate a question for Wendy. Is there anything you’d like me to ask her? If so, please send them to me at:
Gotta run. The Southern California sunshine is calling me!
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Readers, if you’re just tuning in to this article, my interview with Wendy Swallow appeared on Dec. 12, 2011. Here’s the link:
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